The NFL’s Week 13 slate of games is upon us, and the Playoff picture could see some major swings this weekend. One key game this week will be the Miami Dolphins at the Baltimore Ravens, but all across Sunday and on to Monday night, there are games that will impact Miami’s chance of making the postseason for the first time since 2008.
The Dolphins are in the sixth seed position for the AFC side of the Playoffs if they were to start today, but they have not yet put space between themselves and the rest of the conference, despite a six-game winning streak. The Dolphins could also make a run at the AFC East title, if they receive some help in making the New England Patriots stumble down the stretch.
Each week, we take a look at the schedule of games, and break down a rooting guide for Dolphins fans, and how the games can help Miami work their way toward at least a 17th game this year.
(AFC teams are shown with their record through Week 12.)
Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) at Atlanta Falcons
Basic rule comes into play here, with an AFC team facing an NFC team. Rooting to see the NFC team win makes sense, and it could help open up the fifth seed position later this year if Kansas City were to lose and Miami tied them at 8-4 on the season. Root for: Falcons.
Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots (9-2)
Another NFC versus AFC game here, this time with the NFC the visiting club. If Miami is going to climb into the division title race, they need at least one loss from New England along the way (plus Miami to beat the Patriots in Week 17). It is probably not likely, given the west coast to east coast trip for a 1pm game and the Rams’ 4-7 record, but this is a rooting guide and not a winners picks guide. Root for: Rams.
Denver Broncos (7-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
This game starts a Week 13 rule for Dolphins fans: root for the Florida franchises. In this case, the Broncos are tied with the Dolphins at 7-4 on the year, with Miami currently holding the tie-break based on conference schedule. A loss to Jacksonville would knock the Broncos to 7-5, as well as knocking their conference record to 4-4, falling further behind the Dolphins. Root for: Jacksonville.
Houston Texans (6-5) at Green Bay Packers
The question for this week may be who wants to win the AFC South. The Texans are currently in the top spot, but Tennessee is just a half-game back and Indianapolis is a game behind Houston. The good news is, all of those teams are behind the Dolphins in the Wildcard, so they are likely not a factor in the Playoff picture with regard to Miami’s chances - at least as long as Miami keeps winning. That makes this a simple AFC at NFC contest. Root for: Packers
Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1)
The Bengals are just about done in the Wildcard race, coming into this Week, but they do have a factor in the Wildcard tiebreaks if it comes down to the fifth tiebreaker - strength of schedule. Miami lost to Cincinnati, but wins from the Bengals could help Miami if they need to get that low in the tiebreak procedures. Root for: Bengals
Miami Dolphins (7-4) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
This one if obvious for the Dolphins and their fans (and is game number two on the Florida teams rule this week), but it is worth noting that a head-to-head win here could come into play as a tie-break if Pittsburgh is able to over take Baltimore in the AFC North. A win here would also improve Miami’s AFC winning percentage as well as the team’s strength of victory and strength of schedule. Root for: Dolphins
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
A rare appearance of an NFC versus NFC team, but the Dolphins could use a San Francisco win here to up their strength of victory and strength of schedule tie-breaks. Root for: 49ers
Buffalo Bills (6-5) at Oakland Raiders (9-2)
If the Raiders are going to win the AFC West - and they are currently a game ahead of the Chiefs, though the teams do still face off this year - this is a pretty simple game to pick. The Bills are a game behind Miami in the AFC East, so seeing them lose is good for Miami, even when considering strength of victory and schedule. Root for: Raiders
New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
The Dolphins - at least heading into this week - would rather have the head-to-head matchup against the Steelers in tie-breaks, because they already hold that advantage, as compared to possibly getting the head-to-head tie-break against the Ravens this week. Since Baltimore and Pittsburgh are tied for the AFC North lead, it could be argued that a Baltimore loss with a Steelers win does not really do anything to Miami, other than increase the strength of schedule/victory for the Dolphins, but keeping Baltimore and Pittsburgh both at six wins seems like a more sensible move - plus it is an NFC versus AFC game. Root for: Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers (5-6)
Florida teams game number three. If you wan to make a strength of victory/schedule argument for the Chargers winning, that could make some sense, but pulling the Chargers up to .500 on the year and potentially within striking distance of a Wildcard position, especially when given their remaining schedule still includes shots at the Raiders and the Chiefs, could be dangerous. Let the NFC and Florida team win this one. Root for: Buccaneers
Indianapolis Colts (5-6) at New York Jets (3-8)
This is a confusing game. On the one hand, the Jets are in the AFC East and seeing them lose is always awesome. On the other hand, the Colts have the better record and could become a player in the Wildcard hunt if they can string together some wins. Really, the Dolphins are two games ahead of the Colts, so them winning is not going to put too much pressure on Miami, but a Jets victory does help Miami’s strength of schedule/victory tie breaks. Plus, a Jets win hurts their draft status, so that is kind of fun. Root for: A Colts loss.
Games not considered
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals
(The Dolphins play the Cardinals in Week 14, so technically, a victory over Washington could help Miami’s strength of schedule/victory standings.)